Chelsea’s goal-scoring machine, otherwise known as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, proved the team’s saviour at Filbert Street. The Dutchman’s two goals took his tally for the season to twenty-two — eighteen of which have come in the Premiership. But his goals here papered over the cracks of what was a poor team performance.
Leicester took the lead in the first half when Scowcroft headed in unmarked from a corner. Claudio Ranieri did not hesitate to implement a tactical switch — surprise, surprise — after the goal. He changed from a 4-4-2 to 3-5-2, pushing Le Saux up the left flank. Chelsea failed to respond convincingly to going behind though and only troubled Ian Walker once in the half — a powerful shot by Eidur Gudjohnsen that was unfortunately directed straight at the goalkeeper.
Stanic and Petit were both booked for petulance after bad decisions by referee Graham Barber.
Ranieri made a double substitution at half time in an attempt to change the course of the match. Gudjohnsen and Stanic were sacrificed for Zola and Forssell and the team looked more positive. When a Le Saux cross was allowed to bounce in the Leicester penalty area, JFH pounced to send a diving header into the net. He also scored an equaliser here last season that was instantly wiped out by another Leicester goal within a minute. This time it took six minutes.
Another corner by Oakes found Scowcroft free six yards out and he headed his second. While the marking was again poor, with John Terry at fault, Cudicini should also accept a proportion of the blame as he made no effort to claim a cross you would like to see you goalkeeper deal with. However, this should not distract from another great performance by the Italian. He made some vital saves, without which Chelsea would have been beaten.
With things looking grim, Forssell ran at the Leicester defence and was pulled down by Laursen twenty-five yards out. JFH had hit two free-kicks over the bar in the first half and Zola had blasted one high and wide earlier in the second. But this time the maestro, on his 250th appearance for the club, made no mistake. He sent a curling, dipping shot past Walker’s right hand and into the
net to draw Chelsea level with twelve minutes left.
Leicester went on the attack again, forcing another fine save from Cudicini. There was also an unsightly goalmouth scramble after Terry fly-hacked a clearance straight up into the air, but the ball was eventually cleared to safety. Then in the final minute of the ninety, JFH ran at the Leicester left back, played a neat one-two with Forssell to put him behind the defence and
arrowed a perfect shot low across the ’keeper into the corner of the net.
The away section went wild as Jimmy celebrated with his shirt over his head. The fans soon turned to taunt the home supporters who had been singing unpleasant songs about the death of Matthew Harding. A rousing chorus of ‘Matthew Harding’s Blue and White Army’ went up, followed by a raucous rendition of ‘Blue is the Colour’, the tune used by the home fans for their baiting.
On the pitch, Leicester had no time to respond to Hasselbaink’s knock-out blow as the final whistle blew seconds after the restart. The players celebrated in front of their supporters as though they had won a trophy. They had in fact just beaten the team at the bottom of the division, but it would have been churlish to have brought that up then.
The trip back to the station passed off without the usual incidents. After years of trouble the local plod seem to have got their act together and now patrol the route after the match. They also frog-march the away supporters after keeping them behind in side roads. I managed to surreptitiously slip away when they took a wrong turn at the rugby ground and just made it back in time to catch the 5:30 train, but others were not so fortunate. If it’s not the Leicester fans who try to spoil our visits there, it’s the local Bill. But there is nothing anyone can do to stop Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.